A sweet ‘un in Nuneaton..

Even Lara Croft popped in to enjoy the gig!

Day two of a double header of The Leylines went swimmingly.  As Michael and Bex were heading down from Yorkshire I sent them a message to see if they wanted to stay over at mine as I was driving anyway.  This paid dividends for me – they had an early start on Sunday but offered to pick us up en route, woo!  Andy was staying too – so once everyone had assembled we piled into Michael’s car and headed off down the M42 to Nuneaton, which was surprisingly busy – eventually we found ourselves a largely abandoned car park within a short stagger of the venue.

I’ve not been to The Crew / Queen’s Hall for ages – it’s an ace venue, we had a drink downstairs waiting for the upstairs venue to open.  Soon after arriving upstairs The Strays were underway – a new band to me, a three piece fusion of rockabilly, blues and rock and roll – not my normal repertoire but really enjoyable and upbeat.  Sam on guitar and backing vocals, Gary standing up and drumming (and backing vocals) and livewire lead vocals and occasional tambourine from Estelle, it made for cracking warm up for the much more familiar bands that would follow.

Reading through my notes I didn’t do a great job of noting song titles – the danger of drinking cider and a new act I suppose!  One featured You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours in the lyrics – the opener and third track I missed the name of, Sam took the vocals for The Whisky Kid, which was then followed up with Stranger Danger.   It was revealed there was a new EP coming out in the next week or so, if you like blues infused rockabilly then you’d do well to get yourself a copy!  Waiting is one of the tracks on there, and it was a belter.

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Freeborn Al / 27th March 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Tam-Worth it!

Since moving to South Derbyshire around half a year ago it’s been pretty good realising there’s so many places within easy reach of home where live music is happening.  Admittedly gaining access to Tamworth’s Two Gates club threatened to prove difficult – a members only establishment requiring you to be nominated and seconded by existing members to gain access.  Luckily an email explaining I’d just like to go to the gig rather than join secured a couple of tickets on the door.  The sat nav did less well at finding it, but eventually we rocked up in the car park then over to the chippy for some tea.

Once in the venue, rather than the Eyes Wide Shut type scenarios or masonic lodge we’d imagined it was perhaps something more reminiscent of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights.  A traditional social club with a lovely welcome – we got ourselves checked in, paid up and found the soundcheck underway – giving us a chance to grab a drink and catch up with Nick and the Black Thorn collective who were waiting their turn to get underway.  Soon enough Clakka, Mark, Russ and Ann arrived too so we had some kindred gig-going spirits with us!

Nick Parker was up first – it did have a bit of a feel of a family party with some background music on for much of the room – we’d positioned ourselves in the sweet spot for the sound system though so the chatter didn’t distract me at all from listening.  It was a crisp sound too – kudos to Dan for that.  After a swift soundcheck he kicked off with Departures – gradually luring in a decent number of the crowd into abandoning their conversations and taking in the clever lyrical interplay.

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Freeborn Al / 25th March 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Foxy bingo!

I’ve been really looking forward to getting my hands on Jonny Wallis‘ debut EP ever since we collectively coaxed him into setting up a crowdfunding page to get the cash in to make it happen, so to find it hand-delivered (thanks Katie – sorry I wasn’t in to offer you a cup of tea!) when I got in from work this evening was a real treat (admittedly, the email confirming the digital download details probably spoiled the surprise a bit, but that’s okay!).  Clad in a cardboard monochrome sleeve featuring an excellent shot by Dan of Ferocious Photography, I eagerly got it downloaded and synced over to my phone to get it playing.

The Year of the Fox is a reference to Jonny’s old band, 3 Eyed Fox, who I first encountered way back in 2011 – way before Ferocious Blog existed, although it did warrant a mention on my (even more) self-centred personal blog – a very short mention.  By the time I started more dutifully writing about music I don’t think they were any more sadly, so I couldn’t tell you how many times I got to see them – although obviously since this platform has been available to me Jonny has featured quite a lot on my gigging roster!  One musical door closes, another opens – catalysed perhaps somewhat by his occasional partnering with Brian Stone for a spot of The Fox and the Pirate.

Light the Darkness has a ludicrously catchy finger-picked riff breaking into occasional strums overlaid with initially gentle lyrics.  Jonny has a wonderfully melodic voice – but then get let rip into empassioned mode too as he does in the chorus here.  It’s a powerful song of togetherness, offering support to bring someone out of a dark place.  It’s a lovely start, having heard it live a few times now it’s translated brilliantly to a recording – it sounds polished without losing its heart, so some credit needs to go to Electric-Bear Productions who provided the mixing and mastering.  They’ve really rendered something here that sounds slick but is a great representation of what Jonny delivers live too.

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Freeborn Al / 21st March 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Outlining their credentials..

The Outlines are really going from strength to strength this year so far, and have released their second album Bones Bones Bones to underline this quite emphatically.  Whenever I try to write about how they sound it seems to somehow do them a disservice, a three piece grungy punk band, packed with power chords, chugging bass and drums, never-quite-gratuitous feedback and guitar solo work – they’re getting really rather comfortable in their own skin after a pretty solid start with their first album.

Much like their first self-titled release, this is a frenetic and mostly breakneck-paced affair – it’s done and dusted in half an hour and ten tracks.  It kicks in with Waiting, a guitar riff is quickly joined by drums and bass and then Kyle’s distinctive sneering-yet-tuneful vocals – there’s clever pace changes and moments where the instrumentation drops out completely to let the vocals hold sway before coming back with a vengeance – the middle-eight does sound like they’re shouting ‘Pazazz!’ though which makes me chuckle.  A strong start, fading out with feedback and leading straight into…

… Static, rapid drums and chugging guitar and bass kick into a proper headbangable track – it reminds me of my mate’s band Red Jester (who really ought to get back on the gigging circuit!).  A proper whirlwind tour, it’s over in a smidge over two minutes of mayhem.  She Don’t Know has a more ponderous guitar intro with percussion and bass more gently added – before the song kicks in properly, some intricate lyric work before the backing vocals of the song title hypnotically take over before the verse kicks in again, it’s a catchy bugger – I was merrily singing along to the chorus of this the first time I heard it live!

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Freeborn Al / 17th March 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Travelling along the (longer) ancient road!

My list of releases to write about never seems to get any shorter!  But that’s no bad thing, and The Silk Road are the next on my list – with a self-titled album to follow up from their EP released in the summer last year.  Back then when I wrote about it I drew parallels with both Levellers and Ferocious Dog in their sound – and that still stands.  As an aside, one of my friends once described FD quite disparagingly I thought at the time as ‘Levelling the Clash’.  To be fair, back then they probably had a few Levs covers in their set.

I’ve subsequently mentally reappropriated the description to be a badge of honour (maybe that’s how it was intended, to be fair!).  So if Ferocious Dog are ‘Levelling the Clash’ then I reckon The Silk Road are more like ‘Levelling the Pistols’.  And much like the former, the latter belies some of the intricacy and individuality on offer – but with the music often tending to the punk end of the folk-punk spectrum (although not always), and Tich’s visceral sneering vocals (although not always) it feels like a suitable pithy description.

All the tracks from the EP are reprised, along with eight companions – here we have a much more polished (without losing the bite) and varied collection of songs.  So whilst I might have suggested that The Silk Road are more punk than folk, there’s plenty of glimpses at their softer underbelly in here too – with traditional energetic instrumentals like Montagu’s Harrier which featured on the EP, and the frankly lovely Elizabeth Rose which almost sounds like it could morph into a McDermott’s 2 Hours song.

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Freeborn Al / 15th March 2017 / Other Bands, Photos

Acoustic albums like buses!

It feels like we’ve been waiting for ages, but no sooner does Ferocious Dog’s acoustic album land then shortly after The Leylines Trio’s album hit the doormat.  It’s taken me a while to get around to getting around to writing this up, which is good as it’s given me more chance to listen to it!  The packaging is basic, a cardboard sleeve – the front artwork is understated, but the tracklisting design is a thing of beauty – if the first bite of a meal is with the eye then maybe the first listen of a CD is, maybe not – but it’s a good start nonetheless!

Trio Album is short but sweet – clocking in at just under half an hour it has seven tracks, five of which you’ll know if you’re familiar with The Leylines and two new tracks that might offer a teaser into the new full album release (or might not!).  It was recorded live as a band rather than track by track in a studio – which helps to enhance the stripped back and more intimate sound that resonates throughout these tracks – you can get properly up close and personal, and also appreciate some thoughtful new arrangements of familiar tunes.

Gotta Get Out of Here kicks in with guitar and mandolin before the more familiar guitar strum brings in some pace and Steve’s vocals, not a million miles from the full album track although here obviously we don’t get the bass and percussion oomph – instead you get the backing vocals really popping to the fore, occasionally all the strings drop out to give full on harmonised acapella sections which is really very effective indeed – a familiar song performed by familiar artists but in an unfamiliar yet delightful manner.

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Freeborn Al / 14th March 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Dear Brad, you rock!

I’ve been looking forward to Brad Dear‘s EP launch ever since it was announced – it’s been literally years I’ve been watching Brad but I think this is only the second time in that time I’ve seen him headline his own gig, and the first time he’s done so with the full line up of him, Andy, Chris and now of course Lizzie on fiddle.  With Unknown Era unfortunately having to drop out, Spud was drafted in as a last minute support which frankly is a bonus in itself.  As we normally would anyway we made sure we were there in time for proceedings beginning.

Plenty of folk were already in Bodega early doors too – Spud got himself sorted and on stage, kicking off with The Small Festival Scene, charting the awesome array of grassroots events that go off around the country (and how tricky it can be to get to play them!).  Amusingly, being in a DHP venue, he went for Life Without DHP next – explaining to the crowd how difficult not being on the radar of the ubiquitous Nottingham-based promoter can be.  Certainly raised a few chuckles in the crowd.

Getting into his stride next up was the inimitable I Can’t Get Penetration on Tinder – raising the stakes of chuckles to downright laughter!  His love of fishing was up next for Wherever I May Roam (not a Metallica cover, I hasten to add!) before his love of, well, other things was paid tribute to with High Green.  A proud Nottinghamian his homage to Robin Hood was next with The Legend of Nottingham has its own video(which which I never knew!), he finished up his set in the crowd with Sam on guitar for a raucous final track of Chocolate Biscuit.  Ace set.

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Freeborn Al / 12th March 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Politics / 0 Comments

Wakey Wakey..

Last weekend’s gig followed a really informative day at the same venue beforehand, which is something that I might return to when I’ve had a bit more ponder time.  The closest thing I have to a mining background is playing around the Gedling Colliery site as a young ‘un, and my brother’s ill-timed ambition in the mid eighties (at the age of about 4-5) of being a coal miner.  And years of abuse from Yorkshire football fans for being a scab, what with being a Forest fan.  The ramifications of the strike were something alien to me until it featured in my university studies – I’m not really qualified to write about it with any authority, but then of course this isn’t really a vessel of authority anyway – but it’s a topic that needs treating appropriately.

After the day’s speeches and discussion groups though some very in-theme musical entertainment was on offer – all three acts fronted by former mineworkers.  First up was The Star Botherers, or well, The Star Botherer in this instance – it was Bart in solo guise who took to the stage first, unusually opting to stand up for the set.  It was a big old room, bedecked with banners from the different mines around the area – heraldic, proud and defiant, much like the tone of the day – maybe it’s right that Bart was standing up!

He kicked off with Just Around the Corner, the sound in the venue was great and with the lights low in the crowd and the stage lights picking him out it was impossible not to be drawn to the performance – it was a confident one too.  Of course we missed Dave but the songs and lyrics in particular cut through the room bringing plenty of smiles.  If I was a Tory was always likely to go down well in this particular crowd, and it certainly did here (I’m sitting typing this whilst watching I, Daniel Blake – it feels strangely apt to be remembering Bart’s scathing lyrics whilst the film plays.

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Freeborn Al / 6th March 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

A cheesy escapade to see Gaz in Ashby..

Last night was a landmark gig – one I could taxi to and from to home, woo!  Gaz Brookfield has made Ashby-de-la-Zouch an annual stop for his tour, and generally it centres around someone’s birthday – and features the patent-pending Ashby ‘cake break’ in between two sets.  Being so close Dave and Andy came over to stay, both armed with cheese (hurrah!) for a late night snack once home, some of the cheese in the sealed Tupperware box Dave brought so powerful it even broke through the airtight seal to make the house smell of, well, bum! Haha!

A taxi was duly arranged and into Ashby we headed – a quick cash point trip and we spotted an alluring micropub opposite the venue for a cheeky pint, before heading on over to the Bulls Head – a really nice traditional pub on the high street, to find it full of very familiar faces.  Best of all, they had cider from the same stockist that the amazing Scrumptiddly Cider Bar of Rockstock and Barrel fame on offer – rhubarb initially which once emptied was replaced with mango (whether it was a godless mango or not wasn’t specified).  Either way it kept me very happy for the night!

As gig time approached Jamie took to the mic to introduce ‘the marvellous Gaz Brookfield’ – a fitting accolade, but as Gaz pointed out, people probably shouldn’t expect a magic act from him – arf.  With such a friendly familiar crowd it was a very relaxed feeling performance which is always a pleasure to bear witness to – he launched into Solo Acoustic Guy, including amusing echoing on the ‘a touch of reverb if ya like, like, like, like, like’ line.

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Freeborn Al / 3rd March 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Besta Venya..

It’s always such an honour when an artist lets me have a sneak preview of a forthcoming release – I’ve been listening to Nick Parker‘s album-in-waiting, Besta Venya, for the last few weeks now.  Nick was a new discovery for me last year but he’s catapulted himself firmly as one of my very favourite songwriters and performers – be it in solo acoustic mode or with his band, The False Alarms.  If you don’t want too much by the way of spoilers before listening yourself, don’t read on!

I was reading an article the other day that explained that depending on whether you major on left brain (logical) thinking or right brain (creative) thinking helps to dictate whether your appreciation of music centres on the lyrics (left brain) or the melody (right brain).  Whenever I do tests to try to pigeon-hole my brain I generally come out balanced between left and right – so perhaps it’s not surprising that I find both pretty important in my very favourite music – I bring that up because Nick excels at both, he’s a clever lyricist and puts them to lovely tunes too.

There’s a thoughtful mixture of full band big sounding tracks, delicate acoustic ditties – there’s poignancy and humour throughout.  Nick manages to create music that perfectly balances on the tightrope of being charming without being twee, and his songs are frequently drenched liberally with the kind of self-effacing modesty that – if you’ve ever had the opportunity to speak to him (and you should definitely do that) – wouldn’t be in the least bit surprising to you.  Some of the songs are very familiar from recent gigs, others are new discoveries – but it’s genuinely a wonderful collection of music.

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Freeborn Al / 27th February 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

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